Streetwise Professor

August 13, 2010

A Deafening Silence

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 3:42 pm

So what did Putin and Medvedev say on the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the Kursk?  Why, nothing, of course (in public, anyways)  (h/t R):

Navy ships of the Northern Fleet lowered their flags and sounded their sirens at 11:44 p.m. Thursday — the exact time of the 10th anniversary of the blast that destroyed the Kursk nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.

Memorial events were held in St. Petersburg, Murmansk, Severodvinsk, Severomorsk and Arkhangelsk, where the 118 members of the Kursk’s crew are buried, Interfax reported.

All Russian Orthodox churches on Navy bases held services in memory of the sailors who died in the incident.

But officials chose to ignore the date, relatives of dead sailors said.

“We hoped that someone from the Defense Ministry or the Navy’s staff would contact us for the 10th anniversary. We thought that someone from the country’s authorities would come to commemorate the memory of our boys. But alas, looks like they don’t think death of 118 submariners is a big tragedy,” said Sofia Dudko, mother of the Kursk’s first mate, Sergei Dudko.

Neither President Dmitry Medvedev nor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin commented on the Kursk anniversary Thursday.

Putin’s silence is particularly revolting: he was President during the event, after all.  The men who perished were under his command.  He bears responsibility for the way the incident was handled–or, more accurately, not handled.  Responsibility–but not accountability.  And he has done everything possible to ensure that he will escape accountability in the future as well.

It is interesting to speculate on what could lead Putin to eschew even the minimal graciousness of a public statement honoring the service of the men who died, and extending the condolences of the state which they served–a state which he counts as the most sacred thing in all Russia.  Is he so callous that he doesn’t even care that people died under his command?  Is he so petty and insecure that he cannot countenance the mere possibility that his speaking on the subject will jog memories that reflect unfavorably on him?  Is he so wrapped up in his personality cult that he cannot tolerate that people might recall an event that undermines his carefully cultivated image of the Father of Russia, the Man Who Solves All Problems?  Is his ego so fragile?  Or does he believe that his image is so fragile that it will not withstand the slightest doubt about his omnipotence and omniscience?  Or is it that he just doesn’t give a damn about the poor slobs that toil for him and his precious state?

Whatever the explanation, it does not reflect well on the man at all.  He glories in command, and dreams of expanding the power of the forces he commands.  He expects men and women to experience privation and pain, and perhaps to die, under his command.  But in failing to remember some who did die under his command, he neglects the reciprocal duty of the chief: to be solicitous of the lives of those in his charge, and to honor them when they die or are maimed.

The Russian state failed the men of the Kursk when they sent them on a mission poorly trained in a defectively maintained boat with dangerously unstable weapons, all as part of a chest-thumping exercise to show that Russia still mattered.  The Russian state failed them when it botched any hope of saving the few survivors, and spent more time and ingenuity thinking up lies and cover ups than it did trying to conceive of a rescue.  The state owes them deference and honor in return.  And the self-appointed human embodiment of the state gives them–nothing.  Not even words.

Commemorating the dead honors their sacrifice, and keeps them alive in a way.  Ignoring them is like killing them all over again.  It screams: “You don’t matter.  I (Putin) MATTER!”

Vladimir Putin.  Adding insult to death.  Quite a day’s work.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig pirrong and Craig pirrong, Craig pirrong. Craig pirrong said: Updated my SWP blog post: A Deafening Silence ( ) […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor » A Deafening Silence -- — August 13, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  2. Excellent, dear Professor!

    Comment by voroBey — August 13, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

  3. @Thanks, voroBey!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 13, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

  4. Putin can’t help the dead, but he can still save the living. Medvedev, OTOH, has no excuse. Never liked that effete lawyer boy. Hiding in his A/C’ed office while Putin is risking life and limb fighting fires.

    Comment by So? — August 14, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  5. “he neglects the reciprocal duty of the chief” – here you go again, trying to impose your Western cultural clichés onto the mysteriously enigmatic Russia 😉

    The nature of reciprocity in Russia is different, dating back to the Golden Horde: the khan/czar graciously allows them poor slobs to live (unless higher interests require otherwise), the poor slobs owe the czar whatever he pleases in return. End of social contract.

    Comment by Ivan — August 14, 2010 @ 12:57 am

  6. Putin can’t help the dead, but he can still save the living. Medvedev, OTOH, has no excuse. Never liked that effete lawyer boy. Hiding in his A/C’ed office while Putin is risking life and limb fighting fires.

    Fuck yeah. Putin >> Medvedev.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 14, 2010 @ 2:30 am

  7. It’s true, Putin could save the living by resigning.

    But Medvedev could fire him, so they are on the same footing.

    Comment by La Russophobe — August 14, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

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